Can You Hear the Bells?

LG and I received a great Christmas present from his parents.
We were able to attend a Christmas concert last night
by one of our favorite gospel/bluegrass groups The Lower Lights.
I was touched by their retelling and performance of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the lyrics after suffering two terrible Christmas seasons. First his wife was engulfed in flames and died from her burns, leaving Henry permanently injured as well. Second, Henry’s son, without Henry’s blessing, went to fight in the Civil War where he also received significant injuries to never be the same.

As Henry strolled down the street in despair the words of this poem came to him after hearing the church bells ringing. “If you haven’t had to endure a holiday season full of despair, then it’s only a matter of time,” the performer said last night. Then he added some sentiment that communicated the great privilege it can be to experience a Christmas where we are broken, humble, hurt, and down-trodden because it’s in those times that we can really see God’s hand in our life. Thus the last verse:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men

As I listened again to this inspired Christmas hymn tears ran down my cheeks. I felt the power of one person’s faith. I got thinking of my brother’s family. My nephew passed away last May and my brother was just talking about how hard it is to celebrate the holidays without Braxton. I then thought of my friend Rosie who will be stuck in a hospital tending after Hyrum, her critically-ill special needs son, for Christmas as she was for Thanksgiving. I thought of Aimee who has had terrible health problems and is waiting for her entrance into the Mayo Clinic. I thought of several of my friends who struggle with a lifetime of hurt from the abuse they received as children. I thought of so many children out there dealing with the antics of their bitter divorced parents. Then I was flooded with the memories of many heartbroken wives who have lost their marriages because of their husband’s addiction. The friends who are valiantly trying to provide for their children in the midst of job loss and an unstable economy also came to mind.

There is so much suffering.  I thought, “How does God handle it all?”
The answer came, “I don’t handle it, you do.”

Wait, what? I can’t handle it! Then the answer came further,
“No, one person cannot handle it, but everyone can do something.”
And all those somethings mean everything.

I’ve heard the bells. I’ve heard them so many times. I can’t even begin to count. I’ve heard them for me. I’ve heard them for friends. I’ve heard them for family. I’ve heard them by being served and I’ve heard them by being the servant. I’ve heard them ringing for strangers. I’ve heard them in the drop of a few coins in the Salvation Army buckets. I’ve heard them in so so  many surprise packages on my very own porch. I’ve heard them in a Santa Claus across the country buying a trampoline for kids he has never met. They are ringing strong all over the world. Take a minute to really look for them….listen carefully. I promise they are there.

At this time of year you can even hear them in advertising.

The bells are so beautiful.
My wish for each of you this year is the gift to hear.

This one is dedicated to my hubby who loves his Sarah McLachlan.

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